There aren’t a lot of issues local leaders and the Texas Department of Transportation see eye to eye on these days, but they should agree that rebuilding 77 of 80 miles of Interstate 35, and leaving those final three miles of old road within the fastest-growing section of Waco, is not a good idea.
In a world where atrocities and vitriol assault our hopes daily, an individual occasionally emerges as a light unto his neighbors. Such an individual walks among us. He has shouldered a tragic experience, yet seems free of bitterness.
Americans, collectively, appear to be in a deeper funk about the future than Beto O’Rourke was after he lost his Senate race. When adults are asked to think about what the United States will be like in 2050, they see the country declining in stature on the world stage, a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and growing political polarization. They think health care will be less affordable, public education will be lower quality and retiring will be harder.
Sixteen years ago on March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. After a months-long propaganda campaign the likes of which the country had never seen, a majority of Americans supported going to war. After all, the Bush administration had told them over and over that it was an act of self-preservation, for if we didn’t invade, then Saddam Hussein, who probably had something to do with 9/11, would attack us with his fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
Like the rest of you, Wacoans love Joanna and Chip Gaines’ HGTV show, magazine, housewares, books and (most of all?) biscuits and gravy. No one objected when they turned giant silos from eyesores into religious icons. Only a few protested when they recently bought “The Castle” — namesake home of Waco’s most esteemed neighborhood, Castle Heights. But murmurs are starting now that they’ve purchased the 151-year-old Fort House, formerly managed by the Historic Waco Foundation.
The evening the Trib newsroom learned Waco Independent School District Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson had been arrested and briefly incarcerated on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession during an unrelated traffic stop in rural Robertson County, a colleague asked if I thought this inspiring, charismatic educator and leader should keep his job or depart.
Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, most state legislators consistently demonstrate dedication to governmental transparency, something informed taxpayers should appreciate and celebrate. To that end, let’s cheer the Texas House of Representatives for unanimously approving a bill last week requiring governmental entities to disclose certain information about concerts, parades and other entertainment when funded wholly or partially with taxpayer money.
Wacoans inspire us
The Waco Independent School District board of trustees is no doubt as conflicted over the arrest and brief incarceration of Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson as our community is. After hearing public comments from individuals on both sides of the debate — some pleading for punitive measures but not expulsion, a couple insisting that no other option exists beyond firing the superintendent — trustees deliberated more than four hours Tuesday before breaking to continue later.
Every week mail stacks up at my desk from prisoners seeking help in addressing their sentences or petitioning for clemency. Their stories are not told (except by the students in my clinic at St. Thomas Law School for those few we can represent). Instead, when we read about sentencing it’s usually related to the rich and famous. One of those cases is in the news now, as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced twice in the course of one week. On March 7, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced him to 47 months imprisonment; then on March 13 Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court added an additional 43 months for separate (but related) charges filed there. There is a lot to learn from the Manafort case, both about him and about the people who write to me from humbler positions.
As Democratic candidates for president seek to win the hearts of the primary electorate, they’re not just proposing ambitious policy ideas. They’re also trying to show that they envision a Democratic Party that’s tougher than the one that exists today. And one of the ways some of them are doing so is by considering expanding the size of the Supreme Court.
What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.
President Trump finally did what everyone knew he was going to do, firing Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and replacing him with John Bolton. It’s hard to find anyone enthusiastic about Bolton’s appointment: Liberals who have hated him for years are horrified that Bolton is now, finally, near the levers of power.
A spotlight fell on public schools across McLennan County last week, and not in the most flattering way. An awkward question about the multitude of local school districts arose during a long day of sometimes combative testimony before the Texas Commission on Public School Finance in Austin.
In their March 22 column here, fellow Trib contributors David Gallagher and David Schleicher described the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in apocalyptic terms, variously referring to it as a “Category 5 storm,” a “constitutional crisis” and even possibly as “a second civil war” or “the sunset of democracy.” M.C. Hammer was quoted at length.
Six months ago, an American patriot and friend of Israel, retired Army General Vernon Lewis, invited Alice and me to accompany him as his guests on a 10-day trip to Israel. With our 30 new friends, including the former U.S. military commander in Iraq, several billionaires, a former NFL football player (Minnesota Vikings) and an immigrant family from Ecuador, we landed on March 1 at Ben-Gurion Airport, visited the haunting Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem, then headed north to settle into our quarters at a Christian retreat in Tiberias overlooking the beautiful shores of the Sea of Galilee.